What purpose does the narrator’s introduction of the philosophers Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche, and William James serve?

Read Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.” (in course reading folder). The story recounts the attempt by the fictional early 20th-century author Pierre Menard to write “the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of Chapter XXII.” “His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide—word for word—
with those of Miguel de Cervantes.”

QUESTION:

Assume that Menard did produce these pages “word for word.”

What is the significance of the last paragraph? And what does he mean by “the art of reading?”

Hint: “Cervantes’ text and Menard’s are verbally identical, but the second [Menard’s] is almost infinitely richer?” How can this be?

TIPS:

To help guide you when reading this story, consider the following:

1) What is Menard’s visible and invisible work, and what is the difference?

2) How did Menard write the text? Did he copy or transcribe Cervantes’s original to achieve the identical result? Would there be copyright infringement?

3) Borges’ narrator asks: “But why precisely the Quixote…?” and Menard answers that “the Quixote is unnecessary.”

4) What purpose does the narrator’s introduction of the philosophers Bertrand Russell, Nietzsche, and William James serve?

5) How does the last paragraph relate to what comes before? i.e. What concepts or terminology change in this passage from those that come before it?

6) Who is the author? and Who is the reader (generally speaking)?

7) What are the abilities (or lack thereof) of the author? What are the abilities (or lack thereof) of the reader?